Solomon’s Request

As I continue my study of Disciplines for the Inner Life by Michael Benson with my discipleship group led by Bob Chisholm, I am amazed at the depth of the ideas with which I am confronted.  This week Bob could not be with us so the three of us met for breakfast at Cindi’s to discuss Chapter 9: Adoration.  Until this week I did not fully grasp or understand what it means to adore God, nor do I now, however I have gained insight into a small portion or facet of it.

While we were discussing the deep quotes and interesting scriptures we had read throughout the week, my friend Ted Howard (@TedCHoward) told me something that his father had recently told him, to which I immediately responded “I’m gonna to blog that.”

Solomon’s Request

Solomon was given a the most amazing choice by God, a choice all of us at some point or another have wished to receive.  According to 1 Kings 3,  God appeared to Solomon in a dream and said:

“Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”

–1 Kings 3:5

What would you ask for if given this choice?  There are no strings attached to the offer – it’s not a trick.  He could have truly asked for anything and he would have received it.  Solomon’s response to this is classic and widely known: he asked for wisdom with which to rule his people instead of riches or fame.

Because he prayed for wisdom, God gave him all the things he did not ask for: riches, honor, long life, and defeat of his enemies.  The question at the heart of this passage (to me) is: why was this God’s response?  Why was God so pleased with that specific response as opposed to a more typical one?  I believe the answer has to do with the adoration of God.

Pure Adoration

This week in our devotional book was the quote below.  Read it slowly.

…the highest adoration is not occupied with the recollection of favors received and mercies extended, though they do help one be aware of the true nature of God.  There is still, in all such recollection, a remnant of that self-centeredness which it should be the purpose of prayer to escape.  In it, we are still thinking of God in terms of something done to “me” and for “me.”  We never really adore Him, until we arrive at the moment when we worship Him for what He is in Himself, apart from any consideration of the impact of His Divine Selfhood upon our desires and welfare.  Then we love Him for Himself alone.  Then we adore Him, regardless of whether or not any personal benefit is in anticipation or not.  Then it is not what He has done for us or what we expect Him to do for us, but what He has been from eternity before we existed, and what He is now even if we were not here to need Him, and what He will be forever whether that “forever” includes us or not – it is that which captivates us and evokes from us the selfless offering of self in worship.  That is pure adoration.  Nothing less is worthy of the name.

–From An Autobiography of Prayer by Albert E. Day

As we talked this morning over bacon, eggs, hash-browns, pancakes, and coffee, we lingered for a while on this particular quote full of rich meaning and provoking thought.  Pure adoration of God moves beyond a transaction-based relationship; it moves away from bartering with God.  Perhaps it starts there out of necessity, but if one pursues a deep relationship with the Almighty you soon come to realize that you should not love and adore God “because He first loved me.”  The nature of who God is simply demands adoration, with our without you, regardless of your desires, wishes, wants, hopes, and dreams.

Then it hit me: when we treat our relationship with God like a transaction (“I’ll do this for you if you do that for me”) it irreverently and presumptuously raises our status to be equal to God’s, for only equals make trades purely in terms of “equal” payments.  We think, “Surely God thinks my visitation of the homeless twice a week for a year is worth enough to Him that he will let my loved one recover from this life-threatening illness,” and other similar things, but this is not the case.  We are not equal with God, and our transaction-based relationship with God wrongly attempts to set us on equal footing with Him.  “You have something I want, and I have something you want, so let’s trade, okay?”

As another author put it (also in this week’s reading):

True, [affection for God] may start lower down, but it quickly rises to the height of blind adoration where reason is suspended and the heart worships…while scarcely knowing what it means.

–From The Root of Righteousness by A.W. Tozer

Pure adoration worships God without hoping for anything in return simply because of who God is.

God’s Reply to Solomon

Back to Solomon, what made his request so pleasing to God?  I believe it was because Solomon did not treat God’s offer as a transaction among equals.  This total adoration of God suspended reason for Solomon – the reason of the world cries out for health, wealth, and an easy life.  Instead he asked for wisdom, not for the sake of being wise, but so that he could have “discernment in administering justice” to the people (1 Kings 3:11) and better serve God.  At that point in his life Solomon served God for the sake of  God, and nothing else.  It says that he showed this love for the LORD by “by walking according to the statutes of his father David” (v.3).  Simply put, he wasn’t in it for himself, but rather asked God for the wisdom to perform his God-given role in a godly way.  I see this as pure adoration like Mr. Day described above, and because Solomon did not ask for riches, long life, and defeat of his enemies, God gives him all those things as well as great wisdom!

Now think about the things that we normally ask for when we sit down to pray, when we write out our “prayer requests”.  At least at all the churches I’ve ever been at we come to God with our list of demands (reverently, of course).  We ask God to help people find jobs (riches), to help a sick person get well (long life), and many times we pray for the President and our military (defeat of our enemies).  As Ted pointed out to me this morning, it’s ironic that we typically pray for all the things that Solomon did NOT pray for!  I think it’s perfectly fine to pray and petition God for those things, but consider momentarily: what would happen if all your prayers stopped centering on your needs and wants and started to center on pure adoration of God’s glory?  No transactions, no deals, no bartering…just God.

…I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”

–Isaiah 6:1-3

I think those seraphim had (have) it right.  Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory!  Amen.

Peace to you,

James

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6 thoughts on “Solomon’s Request

  1. Ugh. This has been a problem, and I’m gonna at least half way explain it.

    We have grown up in a free, egalitarian, American society. One of the “cardinal sins” of American life is assuming that you are better than someone else because of how you were born or who you are. We also expect others to treat us with the same mindset, in that they should not expect special treatment from us without reason. In addition, with our democratic society, and our national history (that is, coming from a “tyrannical” monarchy to this), we have been taught that no one has the right to rule us. As Americans, I think we tend to carry this dynamic into our relationship with God.

    This is why it is so hard for me to worship God for who he is… because the back of my mind is always thinking, “Who died and made you God?” I don’t *like* the idea of an almighty God who is almighty because he is almighty. Might as well join the tautology club.

    Now, just because I don’t like it, doesn’t mean I don’t believe it. It’s just frustrating sometimes. And I know that the problem lies in my own mindset…. I’m just not sure how to fix it.

    Aaaaaaaaaand I’m out.
    Robert

    • Bob, those are thoughts right out of my mind. As a US citizen, my natural tendency is to challenge authority. An almighty God does not gel with that worldview. This is a struggle for me too.

  2. I finally got back into Google Reader (and have had some time to actually keep up with it) so I am once again appreciating the thought, insight, and willingness to share that James has taken upon himself…thanks man!

    I have to agree that selfishness is at the heart of most (if not all) evils this world has to offer. It’s especially hard to identify and avoid because it tends to masquerade under other aliases like greed, pride, divorce, etc. While I agree that we cannot adore God through a transactional system which is often times rooted in self, I do believe there is something to be said for offering up prayers of thanksgiving to God for “the recollection of favors received and mercies extended.” Too often we fail to acknowledge him for answering those “prayer lists” as offered up to him and I believe even though God already knows what we need, what will be good for us, and what is in line with his will, he still desires relationship with his people, a large part of which is communication.

    That being said, I also see the value and necessity of adoring God just for his very nature and being. In looking at Solomon’s actions as James said, they were based on serving and glorifying God without any kind of selfish motivation. My mind is also drawn to Psalm 119 and to the author who was so focused and adoring of the nature of God and his statues that he was moved to write the (now 176 verse) acrostic. I must ask myself when the last time I was ever that passionate about anything like that, spiritual or not?!

    I am grateful to know that I have a God powerful enough to create and hold the universe together while personal enough to listen to what must be some horribly worded requests, thanksgiving, and praise as sent up by me. I need to purposefully adore him for no other reason than his perfect nature and being…and will make it a point to do so!

    Nathan

    • Good notes Nathan. I think it is important to recognize that we probably start with gratitude, and eventually get to pure adoration, which does not come naturally (to me at least).

  3. James, I’m late to the party on this one, but am delighted to see young men realizing truths which many do not figure out their entire lives. God said it best when He stated, “I Am.” When we are ready to accept and delight in that truth, everything changes forever. David, Abraham, Isaiah and others–Solomon for a time–understood and lived their lives accordingly. We are no less able to live in faith as they did, repent in humility when we stray from His will, serve Him diligently, with our hope set on Him fully. There are NO blessings He could possibly give us that match the blessings He has ALREADY provided to us. When we get that, we can get past ourselves and today’s issues.

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